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Riot Fest 2015, Day Two: Merle Haggard, Lost Shoes And Lots Of Sunshine

By Tankboy in Arts & Entertainment on Sep 13, 2015 7:20PM

Saturday at Riot Fest was filled with sun, mud and good sounds.

The rain from the day before still left plenty of watery, sludgy pockets throughout the park, but once you figured out how to navigate around those it was easy to enjoy the bands while basking in the sun. (Though it appears one of our writers did lose a shoe to the muck. And so it goes).

Due to the festival’s new layout there is a weird section in the middle of the grounds that acts as a weird aural venn diagram of sound when the three stages are in play at the same time—but if you want to hear a band why are you standing in the middle of the field? Personally I would go to that spot a few times throughout the day, simply in hopes of some crazy unplanned mash-up taking form.

So aside from a freak of nature based on the physics of the festival grounds, let’s see how the whole day went. —Jim Kopeny / Tankboy

1:15 p.m.Is that an R.Kelly effigy on FIDLAR’s stage?—Jessica Mlinaric

1:55 p.m.The photographers are suiting up in ponchos and garbage bags for GWAR’s set, ready for any blood or galactic goo that will surely spew. Fans at the front happily accept the deluge as the alien overlords rock into an entertaining set.—Jessica Mlinaric

3 p.m.Security at the side stages is not impressed with today’s band names. “Pears? Indian Handcrafts? They rocked but those names are weak. Meat Wave is something I can get behind.” I suggested he listen to Diarrhea Planet. —Jessica Mlinaric

3:03 p.m. A mosh pit broke out and someone tried to crowd surf while the rest of the small but fanatical crowd quietly lost their minds as Meat Wave ripped through songs like “Delusion Moon.” This was a good way to start the day. —Justin Freeman

Gwar, photo by Jim Kopeny / Tankboy

3:55 p.m. I just saw GWAR drive by on a golf cart. —Jim Kopeny / Tankboy

4:05 p.m. Babes In Toyland are killing it from the Rebel Stage. I am clear across the field and their aggression is still making itself palpable, even from this distance. It’s impressive. —Jim Kopeny / Tankboy

4:35 p.m. My shoe broke. The Riot Fest sludge claimed the sole of my boot somewhere between Pennywise and the swing ride leaving me with basically a sock for the rest of Saturday. Pass the whiskey. —Jessica Mlinaric

Desaparecidos, photo by Jim Kopeny / Tankboy
4:52 p.m. Desaparecidos brings a bunch of the members of The So So Glos onstage to play with them. Conor Oberst is the band’s most famous member, and it’s obvious the crowd is zeroed in on him, but the band as a whole is an impressive beast. Their cynical punk rock attach never eases off. Oberst twists and contorts his voice into a screaming delivery of Dylan-esque ticks flecked with blood and saliva. And the rest of the band concocts a shredding mix of classic rock sandpapered with fury and sped up to 78 RPM. It’s great. —Jim Kopeny / Tankboy

6:20 p.m.Merle Haggard’s guitarist smiles as he notices me belting out “Mama Tried” from behind my lens. I didn’t know what kind of energy to expect from the 78-year-old, but the Okie from Muskogee delivers a commanding country set while his backing band, The Strangers, provide the instrumental fixins. Watching this legend crammed up front, elbows on the stage, is my highlight of the weekend so far. —Jessica Mlinaric

6:34 p.m. “I'm gonna come all over your face so you can see where I'm coming from.” says Bootsy Collins from the Rock Stage. It’s crude, but there’s nothing really subtle about the man’s all-out funk attack. Cutting his teeth as a sideman to both James Brown and George Clinton means this man has soul and grit running through his blood, and his Rubber Band backing him was firing on all cylinders. It’s rare to watch so many awkward kids just shaking their asses with no abandon to an actual band, so that was pretty fun to witness. —Jim Kopeny / Tankboy

Riot Fest Talks with Henry Rollins and the West Memphis Three, photo by Jim Kopeny / Tankboy

6:50 p.m. Made it in time to see the majority of Riot Fest Speaks with the West Memphis Three, Crass’s Steve Ignorant and Thurston Moore. Henry Rollins played the moderator. Rollins was influential in the freeing of the West Memphis Three, making a star-studded rock album to raise funds and awareness for their case. For those who don’t know, The West Memphis Three are three guys who were convicted of murder as teens in West Memphis, AR despite a lack of physical evidence. They spent 18 years in prison for a crime they didn’t commit. “The lawyers failed us. The justice system failed us. Corrections system failed us. The musicians never did,” said Lorri Davis, the wife of Damien Echols, one of the West Memphis Three. A lot of the talk was of the effectiveness and influence of music. “Bring in the musicians,” said Rollins, “never go to a politician.” Music was even a part of the evidence that led to their conviction. In building their case, investigators were selective about what they presented in court. It was Metallica T-shirts and hand-written Pink Floyd lyrics that somehow made them look disturbed (this was 1993, by the way), but they left out the tons of U2 and Cure records that also populated their collections.—Michelle Meywes Kopeny

7:45 p.m. People are losing their shit to Rancid. It’s not the band’s first Riot Fest, but since they’re playing ...And Out Come The Wolves in its entirety it’s obvious that album was a huge touchstone for a large number of people. It’s weird, I still think of the band as an Op Ivy spin-off that mastered a really great Clash impression—which is not meant as a negative read by any means—so I still feel weird coming to terms with the fact that the band is now a group of de facto older punk rock statesmen. —Jim Kopeny / Tankboy

7:48 p.m. “If I had the chance I'd ask CHICAGO to dance!” Billy Idol replaces the lyrics as he sings “Dancing With Myself” and the crowd eats it up.—Michelle Meywes Kopeny

7:51 p.m. The Academy Is… is playing “Black Mamba” and are about halfway through playing their flagship album Almost Here. William Beckett seems to be having the time of his life. Almost Here came out right after I graduated high school, and revisiting it reminded me of being stuck in a dead end town like Waukegan where I didn’t fit in, learning of bands like The Academy Is... who were only a few miles away but seemingly a world apart and wanting to leave. Throughout the years, I’ve slowly moved away from The Academy Is…, but will always remember them fondly, and it was quite rad seeing them again. Oh. At some point during the set they announced that they’re touring in celebration of Almost Here. We’ll announce more details as they become known. —Justin Freeman

Photo by Jim Kopeny / Tankboy
8:03 p.m. Oh, Billy Idol’s shirt is open. This feels more right considering the last time I saw him was ten years ago at Lollapalooza and he was wearing only leather pants.—Michelle Meywes Kopeny

8:09 p.m. Rancid plays “Ruby Soho” and if I thought people were losing their shit earlier, that was nothing compared to what’s going on right now. People are actually hopping up and down hugging each other backstage right now. Amazing. —Jim Kopeny / Tankboy

8:19 p.m. Uh oh. Sound problems for Billy Idol during his cover of The Doors’ “LA Woman.” Everything keeps dropping out except the bass. It’s just a few seconds at a time though, and the band seems unfazed.—Michelle Meywes Kopeny

8:24 p.m. I think it before or after “Eyes Without a Face” when the sound on Billy Idol’s mic went dead the second time. The sound this year hasn’t been great, but that’s what happens when you’re thrown a Herculean amount of obstacles in your path and you have only a short amount of time to configure an entire festival in a brand new location at the absolute last minute. Oh well. Sound problems didn’t stop Idol though as a spirited performance of “Rebel Yell” and an acoustic version of “White Wedding” eloquently closed the set. —Justin Freeman

9:07 p.m. “You guys gotta step one step back,” System of a Down guitarist Daron Malakian pleads to the crowd. They’ve just stopped in the middle of their single “BYOB” because people in the crowd are hurt and paramedics have to remove them for their safety. “There are two people down and it doesn’t look good,” Malakian continues to say. SOAD shows are known to be a bit rambunctious and the grounds have become quite muddy throughout the day. After an extended break to remove the injured parties, System of a Down got back to it, and songs like “Chop Suey,” “Sugar” and their ode to pogoing ”Bounce” still sound as powerful as ever.—Justin Freeman

9:20 p.m. I'm running through the mud with one shoe and then watching Iggy Pop from a ferris wheel. Lust for life indeed.—Jessica Mlinaric

RELATED: Day one recap, day three recap.